Mudkiss is now an archived site, there will be no more updates. Mudkiss operated from 2008 till 2013.

In the half-light of the stage all that is visible is the profile of a vintage microphone – until, that is the tall, slender form of a girl dressed in a ‘50’s style coral pink dress emerges slowly from the shadows to take her place before us. In a performance lasting just over an hour Canadian actress Amy Nostbakken recounts the story of a young artist with seemingly everything to live for but lacking the strength to hold her young life together.
Nathalie arrives in London from her native Canada, filled with optimism and excitement having been given the opportunity of a lifetime to display her artistic talents in a special exhibition at the Tate Modern. With the support of a loving family, looks, personality and a wealth of talent everything in Nathalie’s life points to happiness and contentment and to the outside world ‘life is sweet’.

Sadly though, the outer shell of honesty and charm that she presents is pitifully fragile and lurking beneath like a cancer are dark, uncontrollable feelings of depression, confusion and fear of failure. Her attempts to build an emotional levee against the raging tide of feelings that threaten to sweep her away is destined to fail with tragic consequences. Amy Nostbakkan’s portrayal of Nathalie and the subsequent episodes that shape her destiny is nothing short of amazing with the dialogue of The Big Smoke delivered almost entirely in song ‘a capella’ style throughout in a wonderfully expressive manner. As she recounts to us the chain of events that lead to her demise you can almost believe that the story is being told by Nathalie herself. Nostbakken slips effortlessly between playing the parts not only of Nathalie but also of the host of demanding relatives and morally bankrupt characters that pull her this way and that.

Using a vividly colourful palate of vocal styles she paints a series of portraits in our minds of people unaware and unwilling to concern themselves that they are unpicking the very threads that are holding her together. Nathalie is screaming in silence and inevitably the downward spiral of emotions leads her to mental collapse and eventually to the suicide that she had a fantasised of. Although the music brings an element of cabaret to the performance  Nostbakken also uses classical methods of physical theatre, movement and gesture in the ‘Lecoq’ style associated with the brilliant young production company behind tonight’s show – Ad Infinitum.

The Big Smoke has been heavily inspired by the lives and deaths of three hugely influential writers – Sylvia Plath, Virginia Woolf and Anne Sexton all of whose writing was enormously personal and delivered largely in what has been described as ‘confessional style’. Each of these writers suffered from bouts of depression and periods of mental illness and subsequently took their own lives but not before leaving a combined body of work still influencing writers today. Ultimately a thought provoking performance and a production that gets under the skin and stays with you long after the stage is once again swathed in darkness. 

Review/photos by Shay Rowan 

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